It was so strange being away from James at this time but with rambunctious Annie, we knew it was best. He was able to help his family and really grieve himself. I, on the other hand, felt completely useless and like a jitter bug, anxious to get up there to be with family. I didn't know what to do here. And with a 2.5 year old, you really can't just lay in bed and cry. I debated about going to the Nutcracker with our friends Hillary and Lily, it seemed almost disrespectful but James encouraged us to go and get out of the house. Annie had a great time and I felt it was something Lizzie would have wanted her to do. I also went to find a dress for the funeral. I was in no mood to go to the regular mall and found myself right in the middle of Destination Maternity. I was quite surprised by their selection and found something fitting of my fashionable sister-in-law.
I remember waking up early the next morning and I felt like I was in some sort of movie. There was still leftover salad and pizza on the table and remnants from a sad night before. It was a strange morning.
I was supposed to be hosting a gingerbread house making playgroup at my house with about 20 toddlers. I quickly sent out an email canceling but forgot to send an email to one sister who was not on the list. She showed up, bag of candy in hand and I've never felt so horrible as I opened the door in my nightgown and tear streamed face. I mostly felt terrible for her. It was the beginning of the humbling public experience of grief.
We tried to talk to Annie a little bit that morning. She was very sweet with James but eventually started to say "but you're happy now" as she wanted us to be done with our tears. She thought her hugs could cure all. Sweet thing. Kirby offered to come pick up Annie but James wanted to keep her close. She was a bright spot for us through it all.
The next few hours were spent on the phone with family again as we slowly tried to process letting friends know and planning the services. Everyone agreed on everything and it all seemed so peaceful in honor of Lizzie. The family prepared a beautiful Facebook post and love notes and comments began to stream in. Tyler was involved in it all and I truly felt him become a brother in those hours. The funeral started to come together seamlessly and we started to make plans for our travel.
James decided to go ahead of me. We knew it would be best if we left Annie in Charlotte. I knew I couldn't leave her for 5 days but we wanted James to be in DC with his family as soon as possible. It was very hard for James and I to be apart at this time. We needed each other. But we also decided that there was something special about having just the original Barker crew under one roof at such a sacred time. Say what you will, but that bond is deep between siblings no matter your age.
I had a huge lump in my throat and tears started to stream as we talked about what we'd do with Annie for a few days while I went to DC for the services. The thought of leaving her at such a fragile time was heartbreaking. But I was also emotional about all the love in Charlotte. I knew without even batting an eye that Kirby would take care of Annie for 2 days. I knew she'd be in the most perfect hands and that Annie would be thrilled to have a sleepover with her best buddies. I called Kirby and through tears asked her. She jumped at the chance and was the perfect person for it all. I'll never be able to repay her for this.
That afternoon texts and calls came in from loved ones. It was a beautiful day in our home. I felt Lizzie all around as we talked with so many and reminisced about crazy fun times with her. I was able to share with James some of my memories of Lizzie at Alpine Village. She was the light of our ward and was someone I always wanted to be around. I felt a deep gratitude that I had gotten to know her during that time. It was so beautiful to have these sweet memories floating around us on that day.
James packed his bags and headed for DC that evening, I believe. I felt far away but loved having him there for his family. I clung to Annie and looked forward to being with the Barkers soon.
As a natural worrier, I always get concerned when I have several missed calls from a family member. I always assume the worst. I was jabbering along with my friend Kirby when I noted that James had called twice. It was late in the afternoon and this was a pretty unusual occurrence. I quickly hung up and called him back. When I heard his shaky voice I knew something was wrong. He told me that Lizzie was gone. Not entirely sure I heard correctly, I asked if she was ok. He reaffirmed that Lizzie had passed away. And my whole world started spinning. As a spouse, my walls came tumbling down. I was so terribly sad. So sad. But my heart was jumping out of my chest for my poor husband, who was sitting in a conference room in his office. I tossed Annie in the car as quickly as I could and ran to get James. On the way I told Annie that her Daddy was going to be very sad. I gave her the iPad. It was her bedtime and I was desperate. I wanted James to be able to say what he wanted without worrying about what Annie would hear. It was all happening so fast and I wondered how on earth you would explain death to a two-year-old. Little did I know just how much I'd have to explain in the coming weeks. Since there was no time to process that aspect I decided I'd just distract her for now.
I was there within 10 minutes. James was talking to sweet, amazing Tyler, Lizzie's boyfriend when I arrived. He and James had always had a sweet bond, but in that moment it grew ten fold. It was the hardest drive home as we tried to process everything. James seemed calm and at peace from the moment I picked him up. When we got out of the car Annie said "Dada are you sad?" James wept and held Annie so tight. All she could say was "it's ok, it's ok" like she so often does when something is broken. Its a fast paced "it's ok" as if she just wants to pretend it's not broken. This was her two year old understanding of it all. They hugged for a very long time. Children just know what to do in times like these. All I wanted was to change this for James, for Katie and Allison, for Tyler, for myself, for Jim and Ann and for Annie, who I wanted so badly to know her incredible aunt. It was a hard, long night. We called and had heartfelt conversations with the entire family. Ones that are cemented in my mind for life. I wished so badly we could go be with them right then. We felt so far away. I felt so much love for all of the Barkers. And mostly for Lizzie who had courageously fought over the last couple of years. We talked about how Lizzie must have bravely stepped up when asked who would take on some of this life's most difficult tasks. That gorgeous, talented, classy, courageous, hysterical Lizzie was up for the challenge. I remember looking at James and being amazed at his clarity. He works hard to be rooted in the gospel and that night I could see him holding on tight to those roots. Though it seems hard to believe that someone could be so calm and clear in that situation, he was. As were all of the Barkers. He knew where she was and that we'd be all be together again one day.
That night we wondered how this would impact us. How James would handle it in the coming days and years. When we got married we often talked about the happy times we'd have in our future. But we weren't oblivious that there would be trials in this life. We had discussed future trials and how we believed that with the help of our Savior and our marriage, we could handle them. But that all seemed so abstract. We didn't know what trials we'd have. And in reality, there was no way we could have really known that we could handle them. We put our faith in our Heavenly Father, got married and promised that no matter what we would face, we would face it together. There were times in the last couple of years when we thought we were being tried. We really thought long hours and living in a strange new place was hard. We thought various other family, financial and social things were difficult. And they were, don't get me wrong. Every day life does present trials. But not the rock-you-to-the-core kind of hardship. That night I felt a true, eternal, marital bond like never before. This was hard.
James' office had dinner delivered to our house an hour after he got home. We immediately felt grateful James had made the decision to stay in his current job, as this would have been even more difficult if he were with a new company. James works with some incredible people. We were hungry and tried to eat what we could stomach. I don't remember everything from that night. But I do remember sitting on the couch chatting for hours. We'd have moments of clarity followed by moments of sobbing followed by moments of questions and concerns. That night we felt so much love for Lizzie. We were happy for her that she was free of her pain and in the most wonderful, beautiful place. We definitely felt at peace from the very start. She was free. But we weeped for our loss. It was the biggest loss either of us have experienced. We talked with my parents who gave wonderful insight and love as well. And then we snuggled up and cried. I made James promise that for the night he'd just allow himself to be sad. Nothing needed to be done. No one needed to be called. We just needed to face this head on and be sad. We found comfort in sleeping with a little light on. We said a prayer of both gratitude and sorrow and then tried to get some sleep. It was a day we will always remember and hold close. One that was both horrible and incredibly beautiful all at once. We love you dear Lizzie.
These pictures are about as awful as they come. But I just had to document them because this is the most wonderful Charlotte tradition. All of the LDS (our faith) Stakes (a group of congregations) in the area come together to put on several different Nativity Festivals. Each Nativity Festival has hundreds of nativities that are shared by people in the congregations. The gym in the church is beautifully decorated and the nativities are on display for the public to come and see. We've invited several friends each year and it has really become an amazing experience for us. It was hard for Annie to keep her hands off of the nativities but she did a great job. It really helped drive home the idea of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. She really caught on to that this year. In one of the rooms was a collection that someone (not of our faith) had donated after being so touched by the festival last year. This woman had probably 100 nativities. It was something that I really admired. I would love to have my Christmas decor surrounding the savior. This is a favorite tradition and one I hope to carry with me if we ever leave this great city. I love my Charlotte family.
One of our favorite little traditions. Annie got to see Santa again and had no fear hopping right up there. We went with our friends the Campbells and met up with Dad for dinner after. It was a fun night Uptown with my little adventurer.
It was our year for Thanksgiving with the Barkers and we were so excited to get up to DC to be with them. A few moving parts led us to James' basketball game at 7 pm on Tuesday night where he had a blast playing with coworkers and Annie worked on her cheerleading skills, then we crazily hit the road at 7...for the 7 hour drive. I had a segment scheduled the next day at noon in DC and we wanted to allow James to work Tuesday. It was a tad insane. But somehow, it worked out for the best. A storm was rolling in the next morning and we narrowly missed it. We got in just in time for a few hours of shut eye before I headed out the next morning for my segment at Let's Talk Live (the abc affiliate) in DC. We talked last minute travel tips. Love this show.
On Thanksgiving morning I convinced Allison and Melissa to try out the new SoulCycle studio with me in downtown DC. We had to go to an early class as they didn't allow newbies in the Turkey burn, which was 90 minutes. It was another early morning. I loved every second! I've been waiting over a year to try out SoulCycle and it didn't disappoint. Though I must admit, I am still a Flywheel girl at heart. I was surprised by the differences in the feel of the class. SoulCycle is obviously much more dancy. We burned a few calories and were ready to dig into our Thanksgiving feast!
This might be one of my all time favorite family photos. I love Annie's giggly grin. It was just a good day. I am so lucky to be carrying this sweet baby boy Barker in my belly and felt especially thankful this holiday. A part of me wonders if I knew that so many trials were ahead. I had tears on that day thanking my Heavenly Father for my wonderful, wonderful life. SO many things have come together for James and I in the last year. Last holiday season was a bit rough as we had many questions as to what we wanted for our future. We've decided to stay in Charlotte for awhile longer and feel really great about our decision. James is happy here. I am happy here. And on this day I relished the feeling that for once in my life I wasn't yearning for the next step. I was finding happiness in my now. It was a feeling I remember relishing that day.
Ann made a beautiful, beyond beautiful Thanksgiving dinner. We had the Inuoeyes, Ryan, Tyler and the Behnke's over and had a great time laughing and being happy. I especially remember Lizzie being in such a wonderful place on that day. She was glowing. It would be our last holiday with our dear Lizzie and we are so thankful that it was one built around family, yummy food and good conversation. It was a little snowy and cold outside that morning but James, Tyler and Lizzie took Benji and Annie outside to play for a little bit and toss the football. I remember watching out the window as Lizzie tossed the football to our sweet Annie. Annie looks so much like her and radiates the same type of light Lizzie does. I am so thankful that she had that holiday with her.
While in DC we had Jim and Ann give Annie her presents for Christmas so that they could see her reaction when she opened them, specifically this one. I knew Ann had picked up this gorgeous Cinderella dress for Annie while in Paris and I really wanted her to see her face when she opened it. She was in heaven. Poppy went above and beyond this year as well. He went shopping all by himself to find her a darling duplo block set for girls. Annie was ecstatic and I think Poppy was even more excited! She sure is loved by her grandparents.
We got to spend quite a bit of time with Wess and Melissa, who were in town (from their new home in Cleveland) visiting the Fausts. It was such a treat. I am so glad to have a part of my STG family out east so that we can meet up on occasion. We adore these two. We went on a double date with them downtown to a yummy restaurant and then drove around to see a few of the monuments. We got out at the Jefferson to show them where we got engaged. It's by far our favorite monument, obviously. We were the only ones at the monument for about 15 minutes. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Then we hit up Shake Shack and headed back home. Good food, the best company and lots of good laughs.
I took this photo before we left for our drive back to Charlotte. I was quite emotional this trip. I am guessing it was due to pregnancy, but who knows. But I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my wonderful second set of parents. Ann pretty much spent the whole weekend babysitting Annie. She adores her Nana Barker! Jim helped us make some decisions as we are looking into a bigger family car and was a great guiding force. I feel so fortunate that both James and I have parents that would do absolutely anything for us. I remember leaving this trip on a high, thinking how wonderful it was to have them in my life.
This trip is cemented in my mind forever as it would be the last time we would see our dear Lizzie. James and I have been overwhelmed by the thought that a huge reason we were supposed to stay in Charlotte longer than expected was so that we could have more time with Lizzie. It is likely we would not have gone to DC if were in California or somewhere else. We are so thankful for the extra time we have had with her during our time in Charlotte. This picture really gets me. Her eyes are so vibrant and so alive. I always loved how she'd curl up on that couch with Benji for a good visit. Lizzie was the first Barker that I knew, in our Alpine Village ward. She was the most beautiful, happy, smiley girl I have ever known. Even with all of her popularity at BYU, she was one of the kindest people I knew. She was always doing for others. She took me in as a sister while in Provo and showed me such love from the very start, just as she would with anyone. Despite all of the challenges she faced in this life, she did nothing but show unconditional love towards me. We had a special bond and many good conversations over the years. I especially remember her visiting for Annie's first birthday and how much that meant. She loved her niece Annie. James and I have had fun recounting our last visit to DC. We were able to go to the zoo with the family which wound up semi being a disaster because of the cold but Lizzie held Annie for most of the time and snapped lots of pictures with her. We went to dinner and after got locked out of a parking garage. It was quite comical as we tried to finagle our way into the garage. Things were always an adventure with Lizzie. At one point Lizzie, Allison and Ryan set up a little obstacle coarse for Annie at the Barkers house.. They'd bounce her on their knees and let her do airplane. Annie was a giggling machine! Our last memory was saying goodbye to her as she left to go home Saturday night. We were laughing about how concerned everyone was about Benji sleeping over with Lizzie and we gave her a giant hug as she left the house. It was such a happy goodbye. It was light hearted, giggly and perfect. What a wonderful Thanksgiving it was.
Since we were traveling a lot for the holidays this year we decided to do our Barker Christmas Kickoff day one week before Thanksgiving, so we could enjoy the tree a little bit longer. Annie woke up to her old friend Buddy the elf (who I originally named Barnard, but James vetoed it). Buddy brought her Christmas jammies to wear for the season. She couldn't get over buddy and kept saying "oh - he's so cuuuute." We read her the book and watched the little Elf on the Shelf movie to try and help her understand not to touch Buddy (it wasn't all that successful).
That afternoon we went to the mall for a little Christmas paroozing and to meet Santa. It was perfect because there was no line for Santa before Thanksgiving. Annie wore my dress that I wore on Santa's lap 24 years ago. Everyone was GUSHING over her dress and I was happy to see it was still in style. She as the belle of the ball at Santa. The afternoon before we had done some Christmas crafting and painted a picture for Santa. Annie waltzed right up to Santa and gave him her painting. She told him she wanted a "crib for Baby Lulu and a choo choo train."
After the mall we came home for some snuggle time and a nap. Then it was off to pick out our tree at the traditional Charlotte Queens Road location, Simpsons Farm. This is where we got our tree last year and have loved making it a yearly tradition. We picked out the perfect little number with Annie's help. She loved watching it get tied to the top of the car and it all seemed so magical this year. We brought her in the house and got it all set up. Daddy helped us get some lights on the tree before heading to a movie with some friends while Annie and I spent the evening trimming the tree. Annie especially loved laying out all of the ornaments this year. She was truly in heaven. It was a simple tree but boy did it bring us a lot of joy this year. I felt a special excitement for the Christmas season as I was carrying a little boy. It was a magical start to our Christmas season.
Hillary and I signed the girls up for ballet at Covenant Presbyterian through Launch Your Kid, since we both worked or contracted with them in the past. The girls looked forward to Monday night and loved being with each other. In the beginning they got into a little trouble because they weren't listening too well. We had to give them pep talks each week and Hillary and I eventually had to go downstairs so they weren't further distracted by their Mamas. It was a hoot. I love these two mini pistol personalities together. I loved watching Annie learn her ballet positions and how to flex and point. She was a great little ballerina and really excelled in class. Classes ended in November with a parent watch day. Proud of my little pink ballerina!
This is one HUGE dump. And some of these things really deserve their own post. But in an attempt to get caught up, I am running with it.
Halloween joy school. They loved "J is for Jack-o-Lantern" day.
After big fights over the crib, Annie slept her first night in her big girl bed. I could hardly believe she really did it and guessed she'd be in my bed all night. This transitions as so much easier than I expected. I think she was just ready. At first we kept her crib in her room and just let her sleep in the office/nursery on this bed. But after several weeks, we made the swap. She's never looked back since.
I started to show. But looking back at this now makes me laugh. I'd kill to look like my 18 week self again.
I ate this nearly every day of my second trimester.
We went to Meet the Mormon's with a bunch of friends. I loved every second of it. We topped it off with Pinkberry, which has since closed. Sad day! It was a perfect date night.
This is one of my favorite photos. Sister Eisenhower lived not to far from us and often needed help grocery shopping after a surgery. Annie and I had the blessing of helping her a few times and it was the first time I really got to teach Annie about "service." I loved hearing Annie talk about how service makes us feel good. We took her to church that morning and my heart nearly burst as she reached up to hold Sister Eisenhower's hand. 1 point for team Mom!
Swimming lessons continued with Miss Kristen at Charlotte Swim Academy. We miss her so much *(she changed jobs - but we still love CSA) and are so proud of Annie's progress in the pool. We are hopeful she will be able to jump in, do three strokes and flip to her back to breath before the summer. We still have a ways to go but are so proud of all she has accomplished so far.
Again, these photos make me laugh. I thought I was so huge. Sigh.
Annie got really excited for the trip when these shirts arrived! I have some fun videos of her in the bath saying that Papa was turning 2, so we were going to have a party. I am certain that age would make him feel really good.
Annie learned the beauty of falling asleep with a good book!
James was pretty swamped in September/October this year so we took full advantage of a beautiful fall day with Daddy home and visited Hodges Farm. Annie loves the animals there. She was especially excited to feed the miniature horse "salad" aka grass. That was until he semi bit her hand, which scared me quite a bit. We encouraged her to feed him again and she conquered her fears. It was one of those picture perfect days.
We had ballet class with Lily every Monday and Annie and I would often meet up with Rachel and Avery after for Chipotle or go to Crisp for dinner. I love my little buddy,
Flying into California. Annie did so great that trip! I was beyond proud of her! Even when Mom nearly lost her cookies several times on the flight. She was so pooped by the end of the day. It was almost 1 am her time by the time we got to the hotel. She was a trooper.
We had a blast playing with Kourtney and Jessie and Nate at Strands Beach.
We tried to practice trick or treating and even took her bucket for a ride around the neighborhood on a scooter. Annie was a hoot this day.
R is for Rainbow! I had most of this stuff on hand. It was a fun joy school day for me. I love this stage of motherhood.
I got this puzzle for $2 at a consignment sale and it has been the most played with toy in our home. Annie did this puzzle about 20 times a day for a few weeks. The "crab puzzle" is a hit.
I am certain that some of these may be from another month, but I am rolling with the punches. I had a "S is for Snow" joy school day at my house too. Kirby had her nephew with her so she brought them up to my place. It was quite the circus as we made snow out of baking soda and conditioner and it ended up all over my house. But the kids did love it.
We also made snowmen pizza. Annie's wound up looking a little like ET. You win some, you lose some.
Annie loved the changing and falling leaves and loved collecting them outside our house in her basket.
This girls weekend really deserves a post of it's own. My close friends Alli and Sarah came into Charlotte for a girls weekend and it was one for the books! We did lots of eating, shopping, more eating, more shopping and spent the night at the Ritz after seeing So You Think You Can Dance Uptown. James stayed with Annie and it was just what I needed. We even drove to Asheville for a tasty dinner. These girls are worth their weight in gold. Talking with them in the car for hours on end changed me and made me a better person. It made me miss my sweet Annie and cherish being a Mom. I talked so much that weekend that I COMPLETELY lost my voice. It was a hoot. Oh, and I tried fried pickles. Actually, quite delicious. But maybe it's just the pregnancy talking!
Charlotte in the fall is my very favorite. I could drive these streets allllll day and see the vibrant colors. I have really fallen for this city of ours. These colors make me yearn for the leaves to pop on the trees. I love this green, green place that we live!
One Saturday in October it was unseasonably cold for CLT. James was working so Annie and I trekked to Starbucks for a hot cocoa and steamer. I wound up spilling it all over myself and it ended up being quite hilarious. When we got home I wanted to take a little selfie to document but all Annie wanted was a selfie of her and Aurora, and then me and Aurora. These pictures are so embarrassing but I couldn't resist. I can just hear her now saying "say cheeeeese Mama."
I had the chance to do an achievement days activity on modesty. Those achievement days girls are truly the best! It made me realize how much I love fashion and really hope to teach Annie a good, healthy love for fashion and modesty. We had lots of starbursts and I ate my weight in them. It was a busy day as I then bustled off to a Charlotte Smarty Pants dinner. Thank goodness for a good babysitter that night.
And one last hysterical pregnancy photo. I think I must have been about 21 weeks here.
ANNNND that's October in a nutshell. Phew. On to November.